The provincial government has invited Albertans to participate in the budget process by sharing their thoughts on balancing the budget, job creation and priority services. The WGA participated as an active member of the Alberta Partners for Arts and Culture (APAC). Collectively, we provided a response on behalf of the four Cultural Industry Service Organization and eight Provincial Arts Service Organizations.
Below is the APAC Response to the Government of Alberta’s 2020 Budget Consultation Survey
Sent via email February 4, 2020, to Hon. Travis Toews, President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance, and Hon. Leela Aheer, Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women. Cc’d to MLA Nicole Goehring, Opposition Critic for Culture.
Dear Ministers Toews and Aheer:
The Alberta Partners for Arts and Culture (APAC) are pleased to provide to you both our formal response to the Government of Alberta’s 2020 Budget Consultation and some Quick Facts on Alberta’s Creative Sector.
APAC is an informal coalition of Alberta’s eight Provincial Arts Service Organizations and four Cultural Industry Service Organizations. APAC works to build a strong, sustainable, and vibrant arts and culture sector in Alberta, and speaks collectively on priorities and opportunities that impact our members. APAC and its member organizations understand that the cultural sector, including both the arts and creative industries, plays an important role in Alberta’s success, reputation, and future growth, as well as ensuring the vitality of communities across our province.
This response represents general consensus points from all the partners. Individual APAC organizations may also provide additional industry-specific responses that address further items related to their specific area within the broader cultural sector. Our responses follow the three questions asked in the online consultation form.
In terms of spending priorities, APAC and its members recognize the Government’s overall direction is to reduce the provincial deficit and debt to provide long-term financial sustainability for Alberta as a whole. Further, APAC recognizes and appreciates the investments made by the Government of Alberta in support of the creative and arts sectors, which employ 53,739 Albertans and contribute $5.3 billion annually to our economy.
Investments in base operating funding and special project grants, made through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Alberta Media Fund, are priorities for our sector at this time. In addition to these vital operating investments and project supports, commitments to ensure all communities across Alberta are great places to make a living and to make a life through access to cultural opportunities, arts education, and strong creative industries are a central part of the Alberta story. This cultural story can be leveraged on the world stage as we attract and retain new businesses and talent across the province.
In consideration to finding savings, we recognize Budget 2019 allowed operating funding programs to the arts sector to remain largely intact, however other important supports for the sector were reduced, including base operating funding for Cultural Industry Service Organizations and their members by 8%, reductions to the Community Initiatives Program (CIP) and Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP), and cancellation of the Summer Temporary Employment Program (STEP). The impact of these and other program reductions that support Alberta’s creative sector will have a considerable effect on our sector and those it employs.
With many of our organizations managing tight budgets and slim margins already, and revising operations in response to Budget 2019, any further decreases from Budget 2020 would be detrimental overall, and could be the dissolution to some – leaving our province poorer, not richer.
When it comes to government support for job creation and economic growth, we are confident that our sector supports the adage a little goes a long way with high average labour productivity at just over $90,000 GDP per job.
We enthusiastically support the Government’s ambitious but achievable target to grow our creative industries by 25% over the next 10 years as indicated in your 2019-23 Business Plan. To do so will take partnerships between cultural industries and their members, governments, the private sector, and individual Albertans pulling together to make this happen, to bring Alberta to about the same GDP ratio as Ontario.
To illustrate, a resolution put forward by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce to the Alberta Chamber of Commerce AGM in 2011 (https://www.calgarychamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ACC-Resolution-2011-Arts-and-Creative-Industries-Policy-in-Alberta.pdf) noted, “…the value of the arts is not only intrinsic but there are considerable economic advantages to be gained from arts investment. Albertans receive a 12:1 return on every dollar spent on the arts.”
We believe this return to be similar today, although there have not been any funded economic studies in our province in recent years, largely as a result of previous fiscal restraints.
Additionally, “Alberta’s … artists represent 0.66 per cent of the labour force, and the cultural sector as whole (including museums, libraries, etc.) accounted for over 3 per cent of the province’s employment and GDP.”
The Calgary Chamber also noted, “…though these numbers are encouraging, it is clear that there is a significant opportunity to increase arts and culture related economic activity. Ontario, for example sees more than 4 per cent of its labour force participation from the cultural sector along with 4 per cent of its GDP.”
We understand that this growth will be linked to programs and incentives that attract private investment into key industries such as our film, television, and media industry. In addition to supporting growth in the creative industries through incentives for private investment, we see the need to continue to encourage and incent sponsorships and donations for all of our arts and creative organizations.
Individual donations and corporate funding has been a cornerstone to supporting Alberta’s cultural prosperity. Although Statistics Canada reports Albertans make the largest average charitable donations compared to other Canadians, only 12% of Albertans donate to cultural organizations.
Dynamic private investment cannot replace reliable and sustainable operating funding provided through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and Alberta Media Fund, but through a balance of reliable public funding and renewed sponsorships, donations and other private investments, our sector can grow and thrive, and continue to be an employment generator, a financial generator, and as importantly, a generator of place and community – helping Alberta be seen as a valued place for business through the enhanced quality of life experiences offered in a culturally sophisticated and diverse province.
We thank you for the opportunity to provide input into Budget 2020, and welcome any inquiries you or your staff may have related to the ideas raised in this letter. We know our industry representatives would also be pleased to meet with you to further discuss how we can grow the Spirit of Alberta in the future.
The Alberta Partners for Arts and Culture
Jenna Stanton, Alberta Craft Council
Bobbi Westman, Alberta Dance Alliance
Suzanne Trudel, Alberta Magazine Publishers Association
Sharon Stevens, Alberta Media Arts Alliance Society
Bill Evans, Alberta Media Production Industries Association
Carly Klassen, Alberta Music
Kennedy Jenson, Arts Touring Alliance of Alberta
Kieran Leblanc, Book Publishers Association of Alberta
Sylvie Thériault, Regroupement artistique francophone de l’Alberta
Keri Mitchell, Theatre Alberta
Chris W. Carson, CARFAC Alberta
Carol Holmes, Writers’ Guild of Alberta